The lymphatic system is vital to keep you healthy but also has a significant role in pain and inflammation. And there’s more: it’s also connected with lipedema.
Lipedema is a chronic and little-understood condition that causes the limbs to swell too much more significantly than average size and leaves sufferers in constant pain. Lipedema can be a terrible condition, especially if it is not diagnosed or people don’t know how to help themselves.
Why is the lymphatic system important in lipedema?
The lymphatic system is involved in the removal of dangerous waste products from the cells. Linked with the circulatory system, it plays a significant role in immunity and our ability to fight infection. This waste removal and immune strength are vital for our general health and well-being and help us to stay free from illness.
The study of the lymphatic system has seen a resurgence of interest in recent years. The lymphatic system is a crucial part of the immune and cardiovascular systems, yet it has been a relatively understudied area of biology for many years. Advances in technology and imaging techniques have allowed for a deeper understanding of the lymphatic system and its functions, but much remains to be discovered about this complex network of vessels, tissues, and organs.
The recent advances in research have provided new insights into the role of the lymphatic system in various health conditions.
There are two prominent lymphatic vessels, the left, and right lymphatic ducts, which together make up the thoracic duct. The thoracic duct runs from the left side of the chest to the abdomen, behind the stomach and spleen, before ending in a large vein. It passes through lymph nodes, where immune cells are on their way.
The nodes filter out disease-causing germs and other harmful materials. The system is vital for adequately functioning your immune system and for removing waste from cells that need to be eliminated from your body.
Lymph fluid travels back and forth between your main lymphatic vessels and smaller ones attached to each tissue, carrying nutrients and removing waste products for elimination.
There are lymph vessels in and around every body tissue and each cell in your body. The lymphatic system and its nodes also play a vital role in your immune system. If compromised, you will be more susceptible to viruses, bacteria, and other germs that can attack the cells, causing illness or inflammation.
Characteristics of Lipedema
- Swelling – The most apparent characteristic is swelling, caused by the build-up of toxic material in the tissues around your legs.
- Skin thickness – Skin tends to be thin or thickened in lipedema patients. Thickening mostly happens due to underlying inflammation that causes fibrosis (scarring) of your skin and tissue. This can make it hard to fit into shoes and even cause blisters around your legs when walking or wearing clothes that rub against them.
- Fat redistribution -Fat redistribution in lipedema occurs mainly under the skin. When too much fat is stored in the tissue, it causes a build-up of pressure, which is what causes swelling. The fat can also cause a congested feeling under the skin which can be felt by pressing. This can make it hard to fit into clothes or even cause blisters around your legs when you walk or wear clothes that rub against them.
- Edema-Lipedema sufferers may suffer from edema (fluid retention). This is when fluid accumulates in tissues (i.e., subcutaneous tissue), causing swelling and fluid accumulation under the skin and around joints, leaving you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
- Fatigue-Lipedema patients can also suffer from fatigue because of their condition. In some cases, this is caused by inflammation and the subsequent immune response.
- Metabolic issues– Many lipedema patients experience metabolic problems, especially if they gain weight quickly, have a higher risk of diabetes, and may even experience hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
- Lymph nodes– When diagnosed early, it may still be possible to locate complex lymph nodes under the skin, which can be felt by pressing as well as enlarged lymphatic vessels in your legs and around your ankles, which are visible as thin red or blue lines underneath your skin.
- Obesity-Sometimes lipedema patients gain weight quickly and have trouble losing it. This is because the fat storage area has increased to help protect and store vital nutrients for survival during times of stress like the plague or famines.
- Infections– Lipedema patients are more susceptible to infections, from viruses and bacteria to yeast and bacterial infections in your mouth.
- Eyelid sutures-Lipedema can cause problems with your eyelids (eyelashes), which is why it’s also known as ‘eyelash dystrophy.’ The affected areas are thin, immobile, and close together. Lipedema can also cause tiny lumps or bumps on your eyelids, especially the lower eyelid.
Ways treatment can help
- Compression therapy – Compression garments help by slowing your metabolism, reducing the fluid produced. This helps to control the swelling, and additional compression therapy can also help to relieve some pain. Compression stockings should, however, only be worn by people who suffer from venous insufficiency.
- Phlebotherapy – Lymphatic drainage can benefit lipedema patients as it helps improve lymphatic flow in your legs and stimulate the lymph nodes, which then compress the vessels temporarily, forcing out accumulated fluids from underneath the skin. This is especially helpful soon after liposuction surgery.
- Liposuction surgery – Liposuction is not as effective for lipedema patients as it is for obese people. However, liposuction can help you with any healing process after surgery and also helps reduce blood circulation to the area, which helps to reduce swelling and edema temporarily.
- Medications – Lipedema can also be treated with isotretinoin (Isotane/Oratane) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), which help reduce the lymph nodes’ size around your legs, but only if it is diagnosed early. Some women also end up taking aspirin and paracetamol to manage their pain.
Lipedema, a condition characterized by excessive fat accumulation on the legs and hips. The causes of Lipedema are not yet fully understood, and it should not be confused with Lymphedema, which affects only one limb. If you have symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. People with Lipedema may also struggle with weight gain and maintaining a healthy weight.
Soft Touch Mastectomy & Lymphedema Care offers non-surgical Lipedema Treatment options to reduce pain, improve mobility, and better the quality of your life.